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DIY Everything! But Know the Limitations of DIY Hand Sanitizer

Mad Scientist Mixing Some Concotion

I’m writing this early on during the Covid-19 crises. And America is all out of hand sanitizer. There’s homemade, handmade DIY Hand Sanitizer recipes everywhere. The FDA temporarily seems to have lifted restrictions on who can make them and the testing they need to go through. So everyone and their dog is making their own but I want to be very clear about limitations of DIY hand sanitizers.

Before this crisis, I’d frequently been asked if I made hand sanitizer. I had played around with ideas, made a few possible products. But frankly, I thought of hand-sanitizer as something to be used occasionally in special situations.  Covid has taught me that hand sanitizers can be an important tool in keeping people alive when there isn’t soap and water available. 

Can’t call and sell a “Hand Sanitizer” with Approval

During regular times, it’s not legal for me or for most bath and beauty makers to sell hand sanitizers without certification. I made an alcohol based “hand rub” for myself and to give to local customers during the shortage. Keep in mind, I did not call it hand-sanitizer because I wanted to be clear that I’m not qualified or equipped to make a product that prevents a person from catching a deadly virus. It was my thinking that my hand-rub would be better than nothing if there was no hand washing station or FDA approved hand sanitizer available.

Hand Sanitizer isn’t so Simple

Please know that anyone making hand-sanitizer requires proper certification and lab equipment to make Hand Sanitizer to meet FDA standards. The FDA has loosened it’s restrictions somewhat regarding this BUT only to pharmacists and only if they stick to a very simple recipe of Alcohol, Glycerin and water and NOTHING else.  They released a statement called: Policy for Temporary Compounding of Certain Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Products During the Public Health Emergency: Immediately in Effect Guidance for Industry 

If anyone is selling what they are calling a hand sanitizer without FDA approval, be careful of it. There is no way you can be certain it contains the correct ratio of ingredients to protect you or your family’s lives. I lost a friend over this. She was advertising that her essential oil blends would effectively protect a person from the Covid-19 virus. I was outraged and told her that unsubstantiated claims like this could harm or even kill people.

Essential Oils as Sanitizers

While essential oils might be able to kill certain bacterias and viruses, they:

  • don’t kill everything.
  • haven’t been proven effective against Covid-19. 
  • it usually takes such a high concentration of essential oils that ti is dangerous to people to use at those levels.

Problems with Unofficial Handmade “Hand Sanitizers”

It is my understanding that two problems many unofficial hand-sanitizers have are: 

  1. Improper Alcohol ratio. Too high alcohol percentage (99%, 91%)  and it evaporates too quickly, too low (below 60%) and it doesn’t kill the virus.
  2. Length of time from application to evaporation. It’s my understanding that most official hand sanitizers contain polymers (gel-like substances) to slow down evaporation. This helps make sure the alcohol is in contact with potential infectious agents long enough to kill them.

I found working with Polymers and alcohol very difficult. At the high level of alcohol, I could not get a good gel that stayed emulsified.  

When trying to Make a Handmade Recipe

Homemade, handmade liquid or gel “hand sanitizer” may be better than nothing as long as you recognize the limitations of DIY hand sanitizer. It is not a substitute for washing your hands for 20 seconds with a bar of soap or for FDA approved hand sanitizer. If you must make your own remember that: 

  • Aloe Gel and Alcohol Mix: doesn’t work because you can’t put in enough alcohol to keep the gel-like consistency.
  • Liquor doesn’t work: Unless it is 120 proof since the alcohol content needs to be at least 60%. For example, if you pour 80 proof Vodka directly on your hands, it is only at 40% alcohol. This won’t necessarily kill viruses. If you do have 120 proof liquor, keep in mind you can’t dilute it with anything or it won’t be strong enough. 190 proof Everclear is 95% alcohol. So theoretically you could use 2 oz of everclear and added 1.2 oz of anything else. This way you’d have 63% alcohol which is enough. However check my math on that. 

If you have real hand sanitizer, always use this to be as safe as possible.

Mad Scientist Mixing Some Concotion
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